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SLIS News

SLIS Launches Museum Studies Program

Posted May. 2, 2011

The School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at Kent State University will offer a new specialization in museum studies beginning with Fall Semester 2011.

Museums, like libraries, are in the information business. The museum studies courses employ a holistic approach to the study of museums as institutions, like libraries, that generate and perpetuate knowledge. Students will gain an understanding of museums in context as dynamic, interactive information systems composed of people, objects and activities.

Unlike museum studies programs at other institutions, the courses and specialization at Kent State are presented from the library and information perspective. Students choosing this area of study will receive a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree.

"What distinguishes Kent State’s approach is that we place the museum, not content, at the center of study," SLIS Assistant Professor Kiersten F. Latham, Ph.D., says. "Most museum studies programs take the subject content (for example, history, natural history or art) as the focus for student training. Our courses make the study of museums their core starting point, allowing content to filter in from students’ previous degree work, other electives or research."

Because the SLIS museum studies courses are structured within a library and information science framework, students are able to cut across the spectrum of traditional academic disciplines and strengthen their skills as future museum professionals by gaining a broader perspective, a larger knowledge base and more flexibility, Latham adds.

The museum studies specialization will prepare MLIS graduates with the knowledge and skills required not only to work in traditional careers as librarians and registrars in museums, for example, but also to serve as information professionals in many additional capacities and in any type of museum.

SLIS Associate Professor Greg Byerly, Ph.D., says, "The new museum studies curriculum allows the school another opportunity to expand beyond librarianship, as we have done previously with information architecture and knowledge management, and as we are currently doing with health informatics. This approach positions museum studies as part of a greater whole – for the benefit of our students, the institutions that employ them and the library, archival and museum professions."

Byerly and Latham are primarily responsible for developing and teaching these courses, although experienced museum professionals and adjunct professors also will teach in the program.

For more information about the specialization, visit http://www.slis.kent.edu/content/view/380/177/.